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Birch the Beginning: A Novel

Birch the Beginning: A Novel

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Birch the Beginning: A Novel

Länge:
276 Seiten
4 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Feb 14, 2012
ISBN:
9781467885041
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

This is a work of considerable imaginative depth,but at the same time, the text abounds with a wealth of perceptively observed detail, which lends to the book a poignant, sometimes quite gritty reality, a dramatic immediacy, which is one of its key strengths. The characters, situations and dialogue are relayed in vivid detail which makes each literary moment seem entirely authentic. As a result, the reader is effortlessly drawn into the fabric of the story, experiencing it as his or her own reality.
The written style of this work is another feature of its success. Without being at all self-conscious, this author has found an individual voice, in which he writes with fluency and expressiveness. His style is extremely versatile: at times it is terse and economical, at others it becomes descriptive and quite elegant. Similar in style to some of the great writers, this author creates a world of mystery and intrigue, and often embellishes a sense of humour too.

*******
I was delighted to read George Alexanda's enthralling fantasy, Birch - The Beginning; what we have here is a good, solid novel with substance and scope to it, a richly textured piece of writing that very skilfully manages to be at once, incisive, tense, thought provoking and highly entertaining.
The plot is an accomplished device in itself, patiently built, and sparingly meted out with an eye on the necessities of pace, climax and anti-climax. As a result, this story has a plot with considerable substance and texture: the reader's interest is aroused on the opening pages, and the work remains atmospheric until its conclusion.

Ann Austin

This book has been re published in the uk by a far better publishing agent who actually cares
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Feb 14, 2012
ISBN:
9781467885041
Format:
Buch

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Birch the Beginning - George Alexanda

AuthorHouse™

1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403

www.authorhouse.com

Phone: 1-800-839-8640

© 2012 by George Alexanda. All rights reserved.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction and as such all characters and situations are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people or events is coincidental.

Alexgeorge6694@gmail.com

First published by AuthorHouse 02/08/2012

ISBN: 978-1-4678-8505-8 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4678-8504-1 (ebk)

Printed in the United States of America

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Contents

Editorial evaluation

Dedications

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Editorial evaluation

I was delighted to read this enthralling fantasy, Birch—The Beginning. What we have here is a good, solid novel with substance and scope to it, a richly textured piece of writing that very skilfully manages to be at once, incisive, tense, thought provoking and highly entertaining

This is a work of fiction of considerable imaginative depth at that, but at the same time, the text abounds with a wealth of perceptively observed detail, obviously the product of real experience, which lends the book a poignant, sometimes quite gritty reality, a dramatic immediacy, which is one of its key strengths. The characters, situations and dialogue are relayed in vivid and lively detail which makes each literary moment seem entirely authentic. As a result, the reader is effortlessly drawn into the fabric of the story, experiencing it as his or her own reality.

The plot is an accomplished device in itself, patiently built, and sparingly meted out with an eye on the necessities of tension, pace, climax and anti-climax. As a result, this story has a plot with considerable substance and texture: the reader’s interest is aroused on the opening pages, and the work remains atmospheric until its conclusion.

The written style of this work is another feature of its success. Without being at all self-conscious, this author has found an individual voice, in which he writes with fluency and expressiveness. His style is extremely versatile: at times it is terse and economical; at others it becomes descriptive and quite elegant.

I have no hesitation in saying that this is a highly readable book.

Ann Austin

Dedications

To Margaret in Spirit

To Terry Andrews, it’s been a long time coming

To me: Stop smoking those funny cigarettes

A special thanks to Jili Hamilton for her unwavering friendship over

many years, and her help during the production of this novel.

Chapter One

THE OLD HOUSE STOOD silently on Millers Hill like a monument to some long past medieval war lord encapsulated in his own thoughts. Its one chimney stack pointed skywards, a menacing finger of defiance that reproached the gods for allowing unsupervised wind and rain to run amok, ravishing, punishing the stonework, crumbling the mortar that had held the stones together and in place for so long.

Ivy trespassed over the stonework as far as the attic windows which surprisingly remained intact. They stared uninvitingly across the rooftops of a village some miles away where, contrary to the beliefs of the younger generation, constant rumours of ghosts, spirits and evil goings on were rife among the elders.

A little way from the house a lone figure stood amongst the bracken and dry twigs. Behind him the forest of Frezfir stood silhouetted against the evening sky. The pines and oaks appeared to be watching his every move, listening to his every thought.

Nervously he began to move toward the house, his eyes searching for any signs of life. The house beckoned him, its hidden secrets wanting to be revealed. Although he could not see any signs of life he could sense that something living dwelt within.

Cautiously crossing the open ground he made his way toward the house. Everywhere was silent. Even the smaller life forms that usually busied themselves on the ground remained silent until he had passed. It was as though imminent danger had been sensed and time had stood still for the brief moment of his passing resuming only when no possible threat was detected.

The veranda was of a wooden construction that announced his arrival, echoing his footsteps as he neared the large front door. He took hold of the brass door knob with both hands, and with a cat-like meow of its hinges; the door opened and welcomed him inside. It was dark inside but small candle fought bravely to allow a little light, a light that outlined the fine interior. The smell of rich leather was pleasing. He closed the door with the heel of his boot; the sound echoed throughout the house as he made to look around.

‘Hold’ echoed a voice from the darkness above him but before he could react to the situation, an icy grip wrapped around him and held him fast. At the same moment the sky outside darkened, thunder rolled and lightening flashed. He fell weakened to the floor. His eyes widened with the fear of the unknown and his attempts to free himself were futile.

From the shadows with their infinite games of illusion the voice echoed again.

‘What brings you to the domain of Lord Torran Wizard of Ice and Fire if it not be that you desire an early grave?

Beads of perspiration dripped into the prisoners eyes; he blinked several times before answering.

‘My Lord release me I beseech you. I am but the bearer of a message that I am sure you would want to hear’.

A few moments passed while Torran studied his captive who was unknowingly emanating a crude magical force. He could sense this and he wondered who this visitor could be. He waved his hand once more in the darkness.

‘Release’ He called

The grip of ice disappeared immediately and as the young man got to his feet, a tall erect figure lit a candle with a flame that appeared to be an extension of his pointed finger. It could be seen now that Torran was dressed in a red and white robe that glistened in the candle light; it seemed to be almost alive. His golden hair fell in curls across his immense shoulders. A youthful face looked sternly at the stranger and piercingly blue eyes had already asked the question.

‘Who are you that dare interrupt my meditation?’ ‘What is this message that you bear?’

‘Are you really the Lord Torran?’ Enquired the young man. ‘I must be sure as my message is for his ears alone’.

‘Of course I am Lord Torran. What’s more I do not suffer fools gladly. You have tried ice. Would you like to sample fire?’

A red nimbus surrounded the wizard as he raised his hand and pointed a finger.

‘No!’ Cried the young man. ‘It’s just that my father the Lord Brin of Castle Tezz… .’

‘Ah! Interrupted Torran. He lowered his hand and the red nimbus faded and was gone in an instant. For a time Torran looked deeply into the young man’s eyes, eyes that reflected a memory of almost half a century past.

It was then that, after an absence of many years Torran was returning home to Millers Hill. It was a lazy day, flies played games in the slanted rays of the mid-day sun. Cattle chewed noiselessly on the sweet meadow grasses and the aroma of herbs filled the air. Two birds argued over a ripe berry as others watched with mild indifference. He breathed a deep breath, savoured the clean air. He was happy to be nearing journeys end.

As he was passing close to Castle Tezz, he heard a cry of distress and immediately his survival instincts took charge. He was no longer the carefree wanderer, but through an age of constant conditioning, had become an animated machine of death and destruction in the blink of an eye to those who might be considered an enemy. Cautiously, almost cat-like he moved towards the sounds, the screams of pain. His eyes darted this way and that, visibly searching, always alert. His ears trained for the slightest hostile sound and reflexes ready for lightening reaction.

He found something quite unexpected. Before him on the ground lay a woman in the latter stages of child birth. He relaxed, immediately regretting that his sudden appearance might have startled her.

‘My Lady!’ He exclaimed.

He noticed the finery of an important person and the realisation that this woman was of high breeding followed.

‘Forgive me for not standing my Lord’, returned the young woman. ‘You quite startled me and as you bear witness I am indisposed at the moment’.

‘I understand my Lady, but how come that you are away from your chambers?’

I am a foolish woman my Lord. I was compelled by some inner feeling to seek a stream and open air, I know not why’.

‘It is but one of the many unknown wonders of child birth my Lady’ Many women have, shall we say, strange desires when their time is near. We must get you to your attendants’.

‘No my Lord, I will not move before my child is born. However, if it is not an imposition upon your good intent, my husband is the Lord of Castle Tezz. Please have him send my hand maidens and the healer to tend me. If I were to walk, or ride back at this time . . . .’

‘I understand my Lady’.

Lord Torran ran towards the castle, an easy feat for his athletic build. A large white stallion that had been following him looked up, and then continued to munch the sweet grass. He knew that when his master ran towards something, it was normally to make sure that that something didn’t remain in an upright position. The horse preferred the grass.

‘Who approached Castle Tezz?’ a guard shouted the question from the battlements when he saw Torran running towards the lowered drawbridge.

‘Stay your weapons’, called Torran as he halted near the nervous looking soldiers. ‘I am Lord Torran with an urgent message for the Lord of Castle Tezz’.

‘My Lord’ continued the guard’. ‘What say your message that I might deliver it?’

‘That his Lady lay in child birth but a short distance away’ replied Torran.

Before he had finished delivering his message, a runner was making haste towards an inner building. A few moments later a crowd of fussing women hurried towards him, a plump, balding man of indeterminate age followed them. With all speed the group was directed to where the young woman lay. Both men, Lord Torran and the healer, were ushered to a discrete distance whilst the hand maidens busied themselves in preparation for the forthcoming event. The still air carried their discounted feelings over the area where the birth was to take place.

‘But out here my Lady?’

‘It is where it must happen’

‘You will catch your death’.

‘I am strong, I will survive’

‘If your father were here he would spank you!’

‘I have grown from childhood, now stop fussing and continue with your duties’.

The healer was slowly pacing back and forth. He was whistling a lively tune when Torran posed a question.

‘Why call a healer when he is not allowed to go near where he was supposed to be’.

‘Well’ said the healer, ‘I’m not actually here for the birth. I’m here in case anything goes wrong with it’.

‘Then they will blame you?’

‘Of course’

One of the hand maidens came hurrying towards the two men. The healer, who immediately expected the worst, adopted a serious expression as the hand maiden, almost out of breath, began to speak.

‘She . . . . My Lady will not go back to the castle. She insists that the child be born out here, in the open’.

‘Let it be so,’ said the healer who had had experiences in arguing with women, ‘to move her now might prove to be fatal’.

‘On your head be it healer’, said the hand maiden as she hurried back to her work.

‘See what I mean?’ he said, looking at Torran.

A strong litter of wood and canvas was delivered in order to convey both mother and child to the castle after the birth. A very large, heavy-set man paced the draw bridge awaiting news of the birth and of his Lady. His broad, bearded face showed signs of concern and his dark eyes were hiding numerous questions. Bare footed, he winced occasionally as he stood on small pebbles. He made a mental note to detail someone for the task of cleaning the court yard of the wretched things. He then noticed that the hem of his light blue robe had begun to collect dust and change colour. He made a mental note of that too!

Shortly after the sun had rested its arc on the distant hills and the air had begun to cool, the party led by Torran was sighted nearing the castle. A Lady without a guard was deemed unthinkable and so Torran, instead of continuing his journey, assumed that position to the fair Lady of Tezz.

Leading the small party he halted at the entrance to the castle and drew his large black bladed sword, a custom to ward off anyone with ill intent. The action was of one movement and the blade almost leapt from its sheath as though alive. He saluted the Lord of Castle Tezz.

‘I am the Lord Torran’. It sounded more like a threat than a greeting. ‘By choice and the charter of chivalry, guard and protector to the Lady of Castle Tezz’. He stood in the posture of Knights Guard as the Lord of Castle Tezz approached.

‘Well met Lord Torran. I answer as the Lord Tezz of Castle Tezz’.

‘Then accept my charge Lord of Tezz for my knightly duties are thus completed’.

Lord Torran sheathed his sword with the same fluid movement.

‘I accept your charge gratefully Lord Torran and offer you the hospitality of my humble dwelling’.

‘It is with gratitude that I accept your offer my Lord’. Concealing his abundance of joy, the Lord Tezz walked swiftly to his wife’s side.

‘Well, woman of mine?’

Lord Tezz tried to adopt a look of authority as he asked how his wife had come to wander unescorted from the castle.

‘Oh stop that’, she said. ‘You couldn’t be angry if you tried. Here, hold your son and don’t smother him with that bristly beard. He’s really a dear’, she said while looking at Torran and smiling’.

‘A son!’ exclaimed the Lord of Tezz.

He picked up the tiny bundle and wandered, followed by the others, back inside the castle. Torran gave a shrill whistle and a large white stallion joined the group. The Lord of Tezz was mumbling to the child something along the lines of, ‘diddum’s doo dare den’ or words to that effect. The healer, much to Torran’s amusement, was whistling away to himself while taking the blame for all the things that might have gone wrong.

News of the birth had travelled fast and had spread throughout the castle, as a result the kitchens had become a hive of activity. A large chef wobbled around giving orders, tasting recipes for a feast that he knew would be called for. Large chunks of meat roasted slowly over an immense open-grate fire. As it turned it hissed and spat grease which burned away on the white hot coals. The floor was strewn with bird feathers, and in one corner a group of kitchen helpers chopped and peeled, cleaned and washed.

The simplest dish was the fruit; peeled and diced it lay on large platters. The meat and poultry dishes had to be designed, glazed and decorated before being set on long silver trays. The evening drew on and the efforts of the kitchen staff did not go unrewarded.

Mid-evening Lord Tezz called for a feast to be prepared. Local dignitaries had been arriving early for a free feast at Castle Tezz was not to be missed; such was the reputation of the kitchen, and the wine cellar.

The celebration in honour of the first son of Tezz, and also in honour of a visiting knight, was held in the spacious meeting hall. Tables were set in an enormous half circle at the open end of which stood a raised and elongated platform, seats for the lords and ladies and honoured guests. Ancient battle honours adorned every archway and in contrast, warm coloured lengths of woven silks decorated the walls. Several log fires burned along the length of the outer walls and huge candles in hanging baskets provided light. When the guests had assembled, and after a line of servants in uniform had laid out the succulent food, Lord Tezz stood and called for silence.

‘My friends, let all formalities this evening be put aside or kept to a minimum as this is a day for joy and celebration. My only duty is to announce the birth of my son. He shall be called Brin. Let everyone hear throughout the land of Modania and beyond that from this day forth Brin of Tezz is my one and rightful heir. I might also say, and in conclusion for I am not a lengthy speaker, that fate and the gods seemed to have chosen his champion and protector. Lord Torran, will you accept this charge’.

To be more or less unknown at that time, yet asked to be the child’s protector and Champion, was indeed an honour? To refuse such an honour would not be an outright insult, but it would be most certainly taken as a rebut, especially after the recent event in which Torran had played a major role. After a short pause he stood to much cheering.

‘My Lord of Castle Tezz’, he began. He bowed slightly to pay homage to his host.

My Lady, members and visitors to this most noble of gatherings. Although youthful in looks I am considerably advanced in years. Even this learned assembly could not even begin to comprehend why this is so and I could not, at this time, offer a reasonable or an understandable explanation. However, having said this I will add that that during my years, never have I received a welcome such as this. I accept this charge gladly, with humility and with all of my heart shall I serve. Let all hear throughout the land of Modania and even in lands beyond, that no man shall harm Brin of Castle Tezz lest it be by slaying me first’.

As Torran resumed his seat the hall erupted with shouts of acceptance, cheers, handshakes and people diving for the succulent food. The feast had begun.

A summer mist clothed the ground which made Castle Tezz look mysterious in the morning light. Tops of small bushes watched an early bird as it chirped its greeting from atop the ramparts. A sound; the little bird opened its wings and was gone as it soared into a sky streaked with yellow and blue. Lord Torran had slept well, had risen early and was now standing in the meeting hall admiring the architecture. Servants had almost but completed cleaning after the feast of the previous evening when the sound of bare footsteps heralded the arrival of the Lord of Tezz.

‘Greetings and a fine morning to you Lord Torran. I trust that your comfort was satisfactory’.

‘More than satisfactory, thank you my Lord, but what is the question you wish to ask?’

‘Alas, I could never conceal my thoughts. I intend no disrespect Lord Torran, but a few points may be clarified I feel. Firstly, during your speech last evening, you mentioned that you were considerably advanced in years, this puzzled me’.

Lord Tezz walked over to the open fire and began to warm his hands. Turning again to face Torran, he continued.

‘Secondly, when we first met and you drew your sword in salute, I noticed that the blade was not only black, a rarity today even in these parts, but the blade appeared to have a will all of its own. Lord Torran, forgive me but the history of the ancients is a subject close to my heart. Add the age to a black bladed sword and couple that with a white stallion and I am sure that I have knowledge of you’.

Torran looked into the eyes of Lord Tezz and smiled. ‘Not many people remember the legends my Lord of Tezz’.

‘Then it is true, I’m not mistaken?’

There was a moment when all was still, a moment when realisation dawned then, as a supplicant would kneel to his master, the Lord of Tezz knelt before Lord Torran.

‘My Lord of Tezz, please lest you be seen, it would be unbecoming of the Lord of this castle. I am but a man who is grateful to be with others. I have separated myself from the land and from society for far too long and I am eager for company and yearn for companionship’.

Lord Tezz stood and saw Torran in a different light. He embraced the living history that stood before him. He understood at that point that Brin was safe and that no harm would befall him while Lord Torran was his protector and guardian.

However, Torran had a warning.

‘We are now as brothers Lord of

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